The Wind in the Willows is a classic children's story by Kenneth Grahame, which tells of the whimsical adventures of a group of woodland creatures. To get into the true Inkheart spirit, you can listen to a reading of the entire book on Youtube:
" his men spread fear abroad like the Black Death "
The Black Death is the name given to the first and worst outbreak of the bubonic plague, an illness which regularly swept through Europe from the 14th until the 17th centuries. The black death arrived in Europe from Asia in 1348, and in just two years wiped out around 30% of the continent's entire population. The death toll was even higher in countries like Britain, where it killed up to 50% of people and left entire villages dead.
Plague is extremely contagious and is usually spread through flea bites- it spread through Europe with the help of rats, who would carry infected fleas from place to place and then die, meaning that the fleas would transfer themselves to nearby humans and infect them instead. Bubonic plague kills 75% of its victims within 8 days, with the other, rarer forms of plague working even faster.
" The creature was almost the size of a rabbit, but much thinner "
Gwin is a European pine marten (Martes Martes). If you're in possession of a Chicken House edition of Inkheart with the Inkfolio at the back, you can turn to page 552 to get some more information about these cute creatures. If not, or if you don't trust yourself to be turning to the end just yet, everything you could ever need to know about Pine Martens can be found right here.
A bookworm can be any sort of creature which likes to eat books (or, more specifically, the materials that books are made of). The most common one is the booklouse, which likes to eat the mould that grows on badly maintained books, and cockroaches and silverfish will also eat these as well as happily chewing through fabric bindings and starch pastes used to keep old books together. Woodworms will also eat through paper, although usually only to get to wood on the other side.
Modern books tend to be safe from bookworms as their bindings aren't quite as tasty, but the best way to stop any book damage is to make sure you keep your books somewhere warm and dry. Yes, that means you need to stop leaving them in your bathroom- and definitely no more reading in the bath!
" the Selfish Giant who wouldn't let children into his garden "
Italian Aldus Manutius (1449-1515) was an extremely important figure in shaping modern publishing and the modern language. It was he who invented italic type; he also formalised the modern use of the semicolon. His books bore the dolphin and anchor logo which is sometimes used today by the modern publishing company Doubleday.
However, he apparently had no idea what a dolphin looked like. Nobody's perfect.
Meggie is correct to believe that monks had worked at desks with sloping tops, but her disbelief of Elinor doesn't quite go far enough. In fact, the belief that monks usually worked in dedicated "scriptoria" (writing rooms) is also a myth. Unless monks were specifically trying to set up a library, in which case a dedicated writing room mi ght be made next to the library whilst manuscripts are copied, monks usually wrote in their rooms or in an area of the monastery's cloister set aside for them.